Given her broad community connections and work on Seattle libraries, Farrell was particularly well suited for raising money for the campaign’s lead project, the university’s Lemieux Library and McGoldrick Learning Commons. It also helped that she’s a bookworm.
“If you were to see my house, you would realize that I have bookshelves everywhere, and I have books piled up on chairs and floors,” says Farrell, fresh from reading A Prescription to Kill by Seattle author Thomas W. Griffin. “I’m just a book person. I love all that.”
The library campaign committee, which Farrell chaired, has raised more than $37 million, including a $10 million matching gift from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Farrell says she is particularly pleased that the response was strong enough for construction to start a year earlier than planned—in May 2009—giving students access to the facility that much sooner.
In a larger sense, she says, the library is part of a general rise in the university’s stature through the leadership of Presidents Sundborg and William Sullivan, S.J., strong faculty, great students and an increasing dedication to service. As a trustee since 2002, and before that a regent in 1987, Farrell has had a front-row seat for much of the university’s growth.
The library and learning commons will take the university even further, she says, with new digital tools letting students learn and collaborate with others around the world.
“That is something that I think helps take the university to a whole new level,” she says. “It’s interdisciplinary as well as international in its ability to bring people together.”
Outstanding Young Alumna
Rebecca Conte, ’07
That’s how Rebecca Conte, ’07, sums up the past three years, which have changed the life of this young Seattle nurse and the lives of hundreds of children and adults living with or affected by HIV/AIDS in Ghana.
What began with a notion to open a health clinic to provide health care services to the village of Ho, Ghana, has morphed into New Seed International Care Center. This multifunctional facility is a health clinic, nursery, vocational school and orphanage benefiting many of the community’s youngest members affected by the disease.
“This has turned into a large care center that has literally changed the face of HIV and AIDS in the community,” Conte says.
It was on a service trip during her junior year that Conte was first introduced to this region of the world and its dire need for basic health care. Service abroad was nothing new to Conte, who spent time in high school building homes in Tijuana, Mexico, and later taught English to Haitian refugees in the Dominican Republic. When she arrived in Ghana, she planned to use her nursing education in the area of maternity care. But her focus shifted when she saw people in the advanced stages of AIDS denied routine medical care because of their condition.
“I was just devastated by what I had seen,” says Conte, who works as a critical care nurse at Seattle’s Virginia Mason Medical Center. “I came back and had no idea what I could do about it. I said, ‘I would love to see a clinic there and more adequate care for HIV/AIDS patients.’”
Conte’s first step was to connect with New Seed International, a humanitarian AIDS organization based in Ghana, to lay the groundwork for building a clinic. In 2006 she established a U.S. arm of New Seed International, and she now serves as its executive director.
A year later, with the support of many friends, family and colleagues who helped raise more than $150,000 for the clinic, Conte’s dream was realized with the clinic’s opening.
In addition to caring for those with HIV and AIDS, the center provides basic health care services and treats conditions common in the region, such as dehydration, malnourishment, tuberculosis and typhoid fever.
With one big goal behind her, Conte continued to broaden her aspirations. Last year she opened a nursery school and orphanage primarily serving children with HIV/AIDS. There are 29 children housed in the orphanage, with plans for expansion to accommodate 100. She is working on a program that will enable people in the United States to sponsor an orphan. A donation of $75 a month will provide necessary health care and education for a child in need, Conte says.
With the completion of the work she set out to do with New Seed International in Ghana, Conte realized there was more work to be done to bring the health care she made accessible to those living with HIV/AIDS in Africa to more people. Recently Conte changed the name and mission of her organization, now called Med25 International, which starts at the community level to improve access to "competent, culturally appropriate and affordable health care" to those most in need throughout the world.
Following the success of her efforts in Ghana and with the broader reach of Med25, Conte wants to open health care clinics in Liberia and Kenya. The hope is to start construction on a clinic in Kenya by the end of the year and then move on to focus on the needs of Liberia, Conte says.
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